Check Off Your Christmas List
At The C. Wonder Sample Sale

It has been a busy morning for the folks at 260 Sample Sale launching two big sales at once at their Fifth Avenue facilities. First off is burgeoning retailer C. Wonder's first sample sale which kicked off in the main location at 260 Fifth. What was meant to be an early morning press preview at 8 AM turned into simply an early opening for people who planned ahead. Since C. Wonder's prices tent to be pretty reasonable to begin with, what we found ourselves at was a sale full of gift ideas at bargain prices, especially for anyone who is a fan of the chain's Palm Beach-Preppy aesthetic. There were tables full of home items under $25 —many as low as $5 or $10 including picture frames, coasters, mugs, scented candles, lacquer boxes, pet accessories, etc. Women's apparel was arranged neatly along the room's southern wall, again priced well with everything under $75 and much of it under $50. Perhaps the most popular section will be in the back where all shoes were $50. Though it was generally quiet when The Shophound was there, the biggest hub of activity was the accessory counter where shoppers were snapping up colorful handbags and totes. Basically, this sale should be a boon to anyone with a long Holiday gift list. Under the skirted tables we saw several boxes of back stock, but how long that will last remains to be seen. Have a look in our gallery below for price lists and a few shots of what we saw at the sale.

C. Wonder Sample Sale through November 9 between 28th & 29th Street, Flatiron District
See the SALE ROLL at left for details 

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Divine Details Pop-Up
Brings Perfectly Picked Products

Is it too early for Holiday Shopping?
Well, Hannukah starts before Thanksgiving this year, so not really.
Starting this Saturday and running through December 28th, New York design studio Little Fury has joined forces with AIGA The Professional Association for Design to stage Divine Details, a collection of 33 beautifully designed and crafted everyday goods at AIGA's Flatiron district Design Gallery. Items range from Grain Audio's Bluetooth speaker to Click & Grow's countertop garden to Tegu's magnetic wooden blocks to name a few. Think of it as Gift List that has been curated by experts. Each selection will be accompanied by an original, fictional story by an up-and-coming New York writer.

"We’ve created this space with AIGA to transform the holiday shopping rush into an experience that’s thoughtful and imaginative, that engages culture as opposed to being consumers of it," says creative director Tina Chang. "It’s an exhibition committed to the little ‘Ah-ha!’ moments we all have when a well-designed object comes to life.” The shop will also host a series of special events combining design, food, music and story of the course of it's run starting with “Further Details: Food,” a five-course farm-to-table feast with Brooklyn chef team The Pixie & The Scout, whom you might know from Blue Hill and Applewood.

Of course, the main appeal may be just imagining the satisfaction you always feel when you have crossed one more name off your Holiday list. That is always an accomplishment in and of itself. Since the shop opens this weekend, there should be enough time to shop for whatever Holidays you might celebrate, but the concept doesn't end with the Holidays. Starting in January, the Divine Monthly seasonal subscription program will launch featuring three Divine objects delivered over the course of three months, each with an original story included. Take a look at the upcoming shop and some of its offerings in our gallery below.

Divine Details starting November 2 at the AIGA National Design Center Gallery through December 28, 164 Fifth Avenue between 21st & 22nd Streets, Flatiron District

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Is This Any Kind Of Place
For A Uniqlo Pop-Up Shop?

In case you haven't been paying attention, The New York area is experiencing an influx of a bunch of new Uniqlo stores at the moment including Staten Island and Bridegwater Commons already open, Atlantic Terminal coming this weekend, and Menlo Park, Smith Haven Mall and Westfield Trumbull Mall in the next couple of weeks. Such an event never goes unmarked without some kind of special promotion from the Japan-based chain, and this time they have opened a pop-up store for their popular Ultra Light Down collection in Union Square, or rather under Union Square.
In the subway station.

'What a clever idea,' one might think. After all, when was the last time you found a pop-up store in a subway station? As a hub for three busy, far reaching subway lines, Union Square would seem like an ideal spot. Actually, the shop opened last week, and we had been meaning to check it out when we realized that we had been through that station several times without even noticing it. That's when we realized the drawback of a pop-up store in the subway station: The only reason anyone goes into the subway is to eventually get out of the subway. Either you are waiting for a train to come, or you have just gotten off one and are trying to get to the surface as quickly as is humanly possible. In fact, veteran riders know exactly where to stand on the platform so they can be as close to an exit as possible when they reach their destinations. Nobody lingers in the subway. Everybody passes through, but nobody actually wants to be there, let alone start shopping. We are kind of curious to know what kind of business this shop, which will be open through the Holidays, is doing. It's pretty tiny, and probably exists more for visibility than profits. If you want to check it out, it can be found near the exit at 14th Street and Fourth Avenue, just inside the turnstiles, but if you really want to shop, one of Manhattan's three huge Uniqlo flagships would probably be a better bet.

Uniqlo (Official Site)


Club Monaco Unveils A Dramatic New Flatiron Flagship With Surprises

It has been several months since Club Monaco's customers on Lower Fifth Avenue have been directed around the corner to a disused Daffy's, but that inconvenience is now ended. This morning, regular customers were alerted that the chain's main flagship and first New York location at Fifth Avenue and 21st Street is now once again open for business, but once inside, you would hardly recognize it. Even before we walked inside, we noticed a decorative wrought-iron grille restored above the front door flanked by opulent floral arrangements and new awnings. What was originally a stripped down and slightly generic, modernistic retail decor has been transformed into a grand residential interior in keeping with 120-year-old Gilded Age building it occupies. Originally started in Canada by Joe Mimran and Alfred Sung, Club Monaco was acquired by Ralph Lauren in 1999, and the question many had at the time was whether the designer could own a trend driven brand without ultimately bending it to his own, very specific aesthetic style? The most striking thing about the re-imagined Club Monaco flagship is how very easily it could serve as a Ralph Lauren store. It might feel somewhat disappointing on a purely cynical level if it weren't so impeccably executed. Parquet floors, elaborate moldings and imposing columns give the store a lavish Beaux Arts ambiance. The once open space is now divided into interconnected rooms (another Lauren hallmark), but an expansion adds square feet for new extra features like a florist counter, and a bookshop courtesy of The Strand. A coffee bar with its own entrance is still under construction.

Downstairs, the men's department has been similarly transformed with marble floors and a much darker palette, because darkness means men's clothes in the Ralph Lauren world. Again the interconnected rooms feel more spacious, and offer better settings for a shoe section featuring Grenson, Mark McNairy and Rancourt, as well as a special Made in the USA line of suiting. A couple of years ago, The Shophound took Club Monaco to task for a new men's strategy that seemed blatantly lifted from competitor J.Crew in its focus on preppy classics and carefully curated third party brands brought in to add prestige and round out offerings. Over the past seasons, however, the chain has developed a more individual men's fashion image with more quirk and modernistic touches. The women's offerings, oddly enough have not developed as clear of a point of view. What originally arrived in New York  in the late '90s as a source for high fashion trends at a price now seems blandly middle-of-the-road in its women's offerings, which could use a bit more of the zing that is livening up the lower level of the store. Currently the effect is of two entirely different companies which just happen to occupy the same store. Perhaps that will change in the future. What Club Monaco is showing off right now is a dramatically transformed environment, which may suggest what shoppers will be able to expect when its new SoHo stores are unveiled, although replicating the sumptuous design in this particular store may be too costly to roll out to every store in the chain. Check out more views of the store in out gallery below, and even if you don't think of yourself as  Club Monaco fan, it's worth a look in person just to appreciate the store's impressive transformation.

Club Monaco 160 Fifth Avenue, Flatiron District

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The Gant Sample Sale Is Back

One of the city's most agreeably reliable sample sales starts today. The Shophound got a preview of the Gant sample sale yesterday afternoon. Like an old friend you see twice a year, the label's reliably preppy basics were on display as expected, though perhaps a bit sparser than in past seasons. Nevertheless, regulars will be pleased. Things were calm and organized at yesterday's VIP preview, though we managed to get out before the expected after-work rush.

As usual, the sale included the regular Gant label as well as Gant Rugger and Gant by Michael Bastian. The company has an enormous sample line, which is where most of the stock comes from, so there are few multiples, and selections vary from size to size. While there is women's apparel available, it is limited to a few racks in the back. essentially this is a men's sale, and nearly all the sportswear items are priced below $50, so it's one of the best priced sample sales around, and fans are known to tote home armloads of clothes at a fraction of their original retail prices. The best bets for most tops are in size Medium, though there is merchandise in most sizes. Trousers went from 28 to 38, and other categories followed a similarly inclusive size range. While, in the past, there have been only size Medium samples available in the most popular Bastian and Rugger labels, this season there was a bit more overstock from past seasons as well as the Pre-Spring 2013 line that is still in stores now -including an abundance of Bastian down vests and pants like the kelly green chinos and the signature skinny cargo in navy camo print (we snagged a pair even though we are on camouflage rehab). How long they will last is anybody's guess, but the sale is running for a whopping six days through this Sunday, so there must still be some backstock. An extra plus- no cheap brown paper bags. Every customer got their purchases in a nice navy blue Gant shopping bag.

Perhaps the best bargain was in accessories which featured rugged duffles and totes originally priced over $1,000 selling for less than $100. A small selection of shoes was priced at a mere $27 a pair. Check out our gallery below for the basic price list and a glimpse at what you can expect to find at the sale this week

Gant Sample Sale through May 19 at 260 Fifth Avenue between 28th & 29th Street, Flatiron District
See SALE ROLL at left for details

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C. Wonder Coming Back
To Lower Fifth Avenue For Good

Last year's C. Wonder Holiday Pop-up store is coming back this Fall to take up permanent residence in the same spot. This isn't a huge surprise given the warm reception the well-priced lifestyle chain has gotten from customers since it debuted in SoHo only a year and a half ago. Now counting twelve stores, the chain also has a Summer pop-up set for Southampton.

Back on Fifth Avenue, C. Wonder is giving itself plenty of time to install its much litigated signature look into the space near 21st Street. Having hosted temporary stores for retailers ranging from Uniqlo to Harry & David over the past few years, the shop should finally have a tenant that looks likely to stick around for a while starting sometime this Fall.


The Odin & Pas De Deux Clearance Is Better Than Barneys Warehouse Sale
What Goes Around Comes Around
& DKNY Sales

Normally, The Shophound doesn't report on special sales in the middle of their runs, but when The Odin and Pas De Deux Clearance Sale began, we were busy bitching and moaning about how much the Barneys Warehouse Sale sucked. Usually, the Warehouse is the grand finale for our clearance shopping season, but as it was such a disappointment this season, and since the fine folks at Odin -one of our favorite NYC stores- reminded us of their two-week long clearance consolidation, we trucked on down to East 11th Street to see if what they had to offer.

Stuffed into Odin's tiny Annex, the sale is a little bit cramped and crowded, as we expected, but we would rather squeeze our way into an undersized space full of good bargains than wander around around a Chelsea basement looking for something, anything, that we would want. Odin's tight racks included great pieces from last Fall and previous seasons from designers like Duckie Brown, Mark McNairy, Engineered Garments, Todd Snyder, Burkman Brothers, Thom Brown, Oliver Spencer and others. Even after a week, there were still worthwhile buys left at around 75% off the original prices. The center tables were still piled high with sweaters, and throughout the store, there were shoes from Florsheim by Duckie Brown and Common Projects. A few feet away on the Pas De Deux side there was slightly less merchandise, but still good pieces from Richard Chai, Carven, Thakoon Addition and Alexander Wang. Another plus: since the space is tiny, you can tell pretty quickly if there is anything you will want, and then you can stop next door and check out what's new for Spring at the side-by-side brother and sister stores.

If you want to make a day of shopping downtown, this week also offers a DKNY Sample Sale at 260 Fifth Avenue that by all reports is stuffed full of merchandise at deep discounts. For the quirkier minded, vintage emporium What Goes Around Comes Around is celebrating the last week of its Lafayette Street pop-up store (pictured below) by taking 70% off the ticket price of everything in the store. That includes vintage items, which will now sell for thrift shop prices, and lots of brand-new never worn items from the store's vintage inspired private label collection for men and women. That's three good sales in one week, which should please anyone whose hankering for bargains was left unsatisfied by Barneys Warehouse

The Odin and Pas De Deux Clearance Sale Ends Sunday March 10th at 330 East 11th Street Between First & Second Avenues, East Village
DKNY Sample Sale Ends Saturday March 9th at 260 Fifth Avenue at 28th Street, Flatiron District
What Goes Around Comes Around Pop-up store Ends Saturday March 9th at 440 Lafayette Street at Astor Place, NoHo


Ralph Lauren Replaces Rugby
With Denim & Supply

Our friends at RACKED scooped us today with the news of what will become of at least one of Ralph Lauren's now shuttered Rugby locations. A new photo reveals plywood covering indicating that the University Place store will become a freestanding Denim & Supply boutique. Up until now, the label has been sold exclusively through Macy's and Ralph Lauren's website, but this, as far as we can tell, will be the first freestanding store for this particular division of the Ralph Lauren Empire.

It's not a total surprise that the designer would replace his defunct younger skewing brand with a newer, younger skewing brand. In fact, we have a theory that the more mainstream and widely distributed Denim & Supply brand cannibalized the potential success of the slightly more rarefied Rugby chain. In any event, Lauren has never been one to let a good real estate opportunity go unused. In fact, several of his downtown stores have been converted from one Lauren label to another. We do not yet know if the remaining Bleecker Street Rugby store (which was originally a RRL shop) will be similarly converted or if it will become the home of yet another of the designer's brands. Stay tuned for more developments.

Ralph Lauren's Old Rugby Store Will Be a Denim & Supply (RACKED)


Boots Trump Beauty As Dr. Martens Comes To Union Square

DrmartensVMVhypoallergenics868BwayThe 80s really are back, and they are coming to Union Square soon. Or is it the 90s again already? The decades are all starting to run together.
The boot brand of rebellious, punk-posing teenagers everywhere, Dr. Martens, will be adding a new, 2000 square foot store on Broadway just north of Union Square by Thanksgiving of this year, just in time for Black Friday shopping. Located just a stone's throw from denim specialists True Religion and G-Star, it will be perfectly situated for shoppers to complete their outfits. Additional space upstairs will be used a as showroom and New York headquarters for the brand which has used its recently opened SoHo boutique to spearhead a revival of the iconic brand. Dr. Martens will be replacing the VMV Hypoallergenics skin care store which suggests that shoppers in the area might favor their feet over their faces when it comes to spending. Either way, Union Square is developing a cluster of fashion stores of its own with a particularly grungy character.

Dr. Martens boots up B’way store (Crain's)


The Conran Shop Says Goodbye

This story may sound familiar, but this time it's for real.
About a year and a half ago, The Conran Shop left its glamorous but hopelessly poorly located pavilion next to the Queensboro Bridge to relaunch itself on the lower level of ABC Carpet and Home in the Flatiron District. On Monday, sadly, ABC will be looking for a new tenant for its basement as Conran's has decided to finally pack it in once and for all. What's left of the store is now in a final clearance mode that includes a spotty collection of leftovers (mostly mugs and teacups for some reason) reduced to a corner of the space it most recently occupied.

Why the fabled British tastemaker Sir Terence Conran's store ultimately failed in New York City seems to be a story of bad timing and poor location choices, and it's kind of a shame, since, even in it's diminished ABC basement state, The Conran Shop still offered a well-curated collection of refined, modern desing in furniture, lighting and home accessories. It even added a sleek, modern complement to the whimsical and sometimes peculiarly eclectic collection of tchotchkes and knicknacks on ABC's main floor. Unfortunately, a main floor that customers would find is what this run of Conran's store sorely lacked. The retailer was never able to find the kind of historic, landmark locations in New York that it continues to operate in London and Paris, even though we seem to live in a city overflowing with them.

So it's goodbye to Conran. You made a valiant effort.

Today In Relocations: The Conran Shop Colonizes The Basement At ABC Carpet & Home (4/22/2010)